Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ariela discusses whether you should have PERMISSION (2017) Tribeca 2017

Anna and Will have been together for years. They are madly in love and Will is thinking of proposing. They have both never been with anyone else. At Anna's birthday party, her brother's boyfriend says they should sleep with other people before deciding they want to be with eachother forever. They laugh it off, but then they(or rather mostly Anna) suggests maybe they really should give it a try. That they know they love each other so what's the big deal? Will says "do we have an open relationship?" She says "the relationship isn't open!"

There is also a second story within the film. Anna's brother wants to adopt but his boyfriend isn't so interested. I think I might have liked this part of the story more.

What happens when you mess with a perfect relationship? There really are only two possibilities. I won't spoil it though.

I would say skip it. The film wasn't bad, but I think the story itself just annoyed me.

A Gray State (2017) Tribeca 2017

David Crowley is considered a martyr in the eyes of the anti-government movement of the far right and lunatic fringe where people like Alex Jones dwell. Crowley was trying to make a film called THE GRAY STATE about the coming of the New World Order and creation of a tyrannical state in America that will crush all our rights. After shooting a trailer Crowley kickstarted enough money to fund writing the script which he then began to shop around Hollywood. Unfortunately sometime around Christmas 2014 Crowley and his family were found shot to death in their home. The conspiracy theorists said it was because he knew too much but there may have been something simpler and sadder at work here.

Twisty film is one that needs to be seen to the end in order to get it's full effect. Beginning as a portrait of Crowley as he makes the trailer the film seems to be angling to be about a conspiracy theorist who was killed to be silenced. However at a certain point the film pulls the rug out from under us and we begin to piece together what really happened.

This is not a portrait of a conspiracy but a very troubled young man who fought one too many battles. It is the sad story of a man needing help who didn't get it. We watch as the conspiracy theorists ponder what "all" the clues mean while at the same time director Erik Nelson quietly lays out everything in such away that we realize what was going on was something else. All we need do is see some of the videos that Crowley shot when he was alone or listen to the odd audio recordings to realize that he could do bad all on his own. As several of Crowley's friends say on camera this is the only way that makes any sense once you really see everything. Even the picture above-the flow chart of THE GRAY STATE is a clue that provides an "ah ha" moment.

To be honest I was deeply bothered by this film. THE GRAY STATE is a film that speaks volumes about  things from conspiracy theory, to the effects of war on soldiers, to on line life, to filmmaking, to mental illness and death. Watching the film I was spun around so much that when I left the theater I didn't walk so much as stagger. I wasn't sure what the hell I just saw but I knew I wanted to see it again so I'd be able to really piece it together.

A definite must see who loves documentaries, true crime stories or just a really good film

Ariela says KEEP THE CHANGE (2017) Tribeca 2017

Keep the Change is a different movie than one I'm used to. The film centers around a group of people with autism (played by non professional actors who have autism). The films main stars are David(who actually sat two seats away from me at the screening), and Sarah.

David has to go to a autistic community group after telling an inappropriate joke to a cop about a pig. He is more functioning than some of the others, and feels he doesn't need to be there. During one of the lessons he is grouped with Sarah. The group leaders instructs them to go to the Brooklyn Bridge together (to which David makes a joke about jumping off the bridge). At first David seems annoyed and doesn't want to be bothered by Sarah, but their relationship winds up growing and blossoming.

I think because this is an area I am unfamiliar with, some of the lines that the audience laughed at, I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to laugh at or not. Some scenes such as them kissing felt awkward for me.

Keep the Change is sweet and funny and honest. Sarah especially is very open with how she expresses herself, which was impressive. She always said what was on her mind(which wasn't always a good thing!)

I don't think there are many movies that show romance in this world so it was nice to be exposed to it. To see that even though people are different and may have a disability that they still have the desire and ability to love.

I recommend it!

Dog Years (2017) Tribeca 2017

I was sick the day DOG YEARS was shown during the pre-Tribeca press screenings. Immediately afterward and in the days that followed I was told about how the film laid out the press corps and how many people were saying it was best of the fest. I would have to wait until after the world premiere screening to see it and form my own ideas.

The plot of the film has Burt Reynolds, playing essentially himself. He is a faded star who is notified that a film festival in Nashville is going to be awarding him a Lifetime Achievement Award. If he wants to come he would get first class treatment. Mourning the death of his dog and trying to come to terms with his own mortality he flies out to find his first class accommodations are not as promised and the festival is being held in the backroom of a bar. Wanting to head home he instead forces his driver, Lil, the sister of the festival organizer, to make a turn on the way to the airport and he ends up going down memory lane.

A melancholy comedy drama DOG YEARS gives Burt Reynolds the best role he's had in maybe two decades. A stunning piece of acting, the role shows just how good a performer he is and makes you wonder what would have happened if he had done less comedies and more dramas, It is conceivable (though probably unlikely) that a wave of nostalgia could put Reynolds back in the running for an Oscar. (Yes he really is that good)

Outside of Reynolds the film is an odd mix. A rambling film that picks up and drops plot threads at random the film never gets enough narrative traction to be truly great, despite having great things in it. Watching the film I was frustrated by the way the film would go off on an odd tangents at the drop of a hat or simply not finish one thing before picking up another one.

The thing that shows off the random nature is the one thread that I'm sure lays everyone out, mostly because it had me crying as well, That is the the thread involving Reynolds going to visit to his first wife. The series of scenes, probably the best in the film, seem to be inserted at random in the film. The sequences when looked at in context of the film, especially that last one in the sequence, seem not to belong. While ultimately they are the  point of the whole film, they don't really feel connected to it,  I'd say cut them but they are the scenes you remember.

I blame writer director Adam Rifkin who only occasionally seems to stage sequences  that they feel real instead of feeling like we're on a soundstage. I'm not sure why he chose some of the shots he did or why he positioned Reynolds as he was in many scenes, it seems its like Burt sat down and Rifkin just shot around him.. Was it a clash of star and director or was it just a poor choice. I'm not sure but there are times the film looks like a film that's a middle of the road director to home video release instead of a film where it's star could be hunting Oscar gold.

While I have a lot of problems with the film (its not even close to the best of the fest) I do like the film. I like it because Burt gives a performance for the ages, and I liked it because Ariel Winter as his reluctant driver Lil shines everytime she's on screen.  She is also is Reynold's equal which bodes a very long career if she wants it. I also like the fact that this very messy film has three or four scenes that in combination rip your heart out.

Strong reservations aside DOG YEARS is a must see for Burt Reynolds- and worth a shot for everything else

Get Me Roger Stone (2017) Tribeca 2017

While you have to admire Roger Stone's balls at the things he's done, he is ultimately a charming dick who will make his greatest contribution to mankind when he finally shuffles off this mortal coil. Don't get me wrong I like the son of a bitch but my love for America and mankind in general makes me realize that we'd be better off if he never started with his dirty tricks.

Ultimately its a matter of emotionally I like him but intellectually I want to punch him in the face.

Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro, and Morgan Pehme's GET ME ROGER STONE is the Roger Stone story, largely in his own words comes . In its way its a vitally important document, it shines a light on a man who has shaped American politics for the last 40 years.  Stone rose to prominence when he was was named as being one of the Watergate conspirators. Stone's role was minor but being named gave him cache which he turned into life that altered the way politics are conducted in America.

In the film Stone is a silver haired devil. Literally. Sitting drinking fine alcohol, smoking big cigars while sitting in finely tailored suits with suspenders he looks very much like the movies depiction of Satan.  Add to it the fact that Stone speaks so charmingly,  and so honestly (he admits he has no morals because all he wants is money) you kind of will begin to think he is straight from hell.

It is as good a look at Stone as we are ever likely to see where he is involved with it. A warts and all examination of the man this film lays it all out so that we can really understand the damage the man is doing as part of Trump's inner circle. And when I do mean warts and all I do mean it since we get to see all of his missteps, including his infamous sex scandal. Not that any of it really matters because Stone has survived it all.

One of the small gems of information in the film, and something I kind of wish had been dealt with a bit more, is the fact that some of Stone's triumphs may not have been quite what he sells them as. Going back to Watergate and onward there are several times where Stone increased his reputation by inflating the way things really happened. He simply took credit for things that no one wanted to go near.

Another reason that this film is important is because it shows us not only Stone, but many other people connected to him, a good number of which ended up working with Donald Trump either in his campaign or in the White House. The film really lets us know who they are and why they are dangerous- they really don't give a rat's ass about anything other than making more money.

While I like the film a great deal the film kind of runs out of  steam in the final third. This is not the filmmaker's fault, the story simply slows to a crawl. Once we get to about the time of the recent presidential election there we're pretty much run out of revelations regarding Stone. While there is no doubt he was farting around behind the scenes of recent events, Stone's smoke and mirrors act hits the high gear and he clams up. Because things were still playing out as the film was being made Stone smartly controls his statements as a result what we see just becomes more of the same from the previous hour.(Basically he is waiting for things to shake out so he doesn't say anything to get himself into trouble and he's waiting to find a juicy tidbit he can take credit for doing)

A vital and important film- the film is must see.

Manifesto- The feature film version (2017) Tribeca (2017)

This is the feature film version of Julian Rosefeldt's art installation of the same name. I saw the installation back in January when it was at the Park Avenue Armory (My review is here). The films rocked my world.

The feature film version takes the 13 films that all played simultaneously in the drill hall and cut them together as one film. Where the presentation in the drill hall allowed us to wander in and out of the 13 parts, the feature film controls our view. Several of them are intercut, words that were spoken in some sequences by the n screen Cate Blanchett are now heard in voice over. The approximately two and a quarter hour installation is cut to  just over an hour and a half.

The film does not have a narrative as such. The film is a series of vignettes that are strung together by the 14 Blanchette characters speaking the words of 50 artistic manifestos strung together. The effect is a commentary on manifestos and a creation of a new one. This is a giant head game that makes you think and feel and ponder.

Some people are going to hate this others will be like me and be delighted.

Yes this has a series of stellar Blanchett performances, which will be enough for some. For me I love the head games. I love how things are repurposed and rethought. I love how it forced me to think about what I was seeing and hearing.

What I loved about the film was that it is a different experience than the installation. Where in the Armory people were afraid to laugh, the audience in the press screening filled the theater with laughter in all the right spots. Better yet the recutting of the shorts so they are intercut allows for the humor of some sequences to be intensified. For example the dinner prayer which kind of laid there in the installation brought gales of laughter each time it returned.

What does it all mean? Nothing and everything. This is a film that makes the manifestos live again as it removes the piss and vinegar from them

I loved this and I can't wait to see it again.

Will you like it?

I have no idea. This is a one of a kind film with a great piece of acting at it's core. If the film weren't so quirky I'd say Blanchett is in the running for the Oscar. If you are adventurous or love heady stuff this is a must. If you aren't the choice is yours. Personally I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to try it.

Ariela on THE LAST ANIMALS (2017) Tribeca 2017

The Last Animals is a documentary about elephant and rhino poaching. This is actually a topic I am very passionate about. I went to Kenya a few years ago to "meet" the last three remaining Northern white rhinos in the world who reside at Ol Pejeta Conservatory. I wanted the chance to meet them before there was no longer that chance.

Director Kate Brooks, who is a former war photographer, started the documentary to document the link between ivory and terrorism but when she found out about rhino horns, she had to include that too.

Poachers kill elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns, as there is a myth that their horns have medicinal purposes. During the filming of this documentary, 100,000 elephants were killed and 50,000 rhinos. They estimate 96 elephants are killed a day. It's truly heartbreaking.

There used to be millions of Northern white rhinos in the world, now there are 3. There is a very good chance this species will go extinct. They brought the rhinos from a zoo in Europe to Kenya so that they would be in their natural habitat. It was their first time seeing grass or playing in mud. They tried to breed them but sadly had no luck.

The rangers are really heroes. They know that a bullet is possible and they risk their lives for these animals. They know their is a chance they can be injured or killed. Over 1,000 Rangers were killed in the last 20 years.

Many of the people involved in poaching are also involved in exporting narcotics and human trafficking. It's a very sick business and extremely corrupt. One man was arrested after they found a facility with Ivory. Within 24 hours, the facility was demolished.

It's awful what greed can do to people. Destroy these beautiful animals. I can't imagine growing up in a world without elephants and rhinos. This film made my heart so heavy. For hours after. I am glad there are some people fighting to save these animals, but we need more. This documentary really shows the urgency. Time is running out.

This documentary is a must see.

For more info go to: www.thelastanimals.com

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tribeca Day 7 SATURDAY CHURCH- GRAY STATE, PILGRIMAGE and THE CLAPPER

It's all winding down- three more days for me and close to 20 more films....Weeeeee!

Not much to report other than I spoke with a lot of friends and finally sat down and actually watched a movie and shared popcorn with Ariela. I know she has been writing for Unseen for two years and I've known her longer than that but this is the first time we ever sat with each other and saw a movie.

I saw four films today- and longer reports are coming for them but for now:

SATURDAY CHURCH- I want to see this again before I review it. A youngman not sure where he is sexually finds himself a home at Saturday Church down by  Christopher Street in New York. This is a wonderful  film that wasn't what I expected after several friends called this one of the best of the fest.

A GRAY STATE- What you think this film is about ends up not hat you think it's about. This is the story of David Crowley a filmmaker who was working on a film called THE GRAY STATE about how the government is moving toward tyranny. Crowley became a darling of the conspiracy fringe and  Alex Jones crowd by striving to make a film about the end of civil liberties and freedom. When Crowley and his family were found murdered Christmas time 2014 many thought it was a political murder but something darker and sadder was at work. Ever changing film is a must see. A riveting portrait of inner darkness the film disturbed me as it kept me glued to my seat.  This needs a much longer review.

PILGRIMAGE- dark heady adventure (of a sort) set in 1209 about a group of Irish  monks tasked with getting their sacred relic to Rome. The group ends up in the middle of a power struggle and things go wrong early on. Violent ugly and at time thought provoking film will delight those who take it head on. While admittedly uneven, some of the people on the press screening had problems that kept them from liking it, the film is a good adventure on its own terms. I enjoyed the hell out of it and I have a great deal to say, so a longer review is coming,

THE CLAPPER- This film was an expected pleasure-mostly. The plot of the film has a guy who earns his living being a professional audience member for TV shows and infomercials being outed by a late night talk show making his ability to earn a living impossible. As the TV show he tries to hook up with the girl of his dreams. While the central thread of the main character not wanting to be on TV as anything other than an audience member doesn't really work, the stuff around it works wonderfully. I liked the film because I liked the character interactions . Ariela, with whom I shared a bucket of popcorn during the screening, will be writing it up.

City of Ghosts (2017) Tribeca 2017

The first thing that must be said about the film is that the film is is not wholly the on the ground story of the citizen Journalists in Raqqa. While we see what is happening in the besieged city most of the film is following the members of Raqqa is being Silently Slaughtered (RBSS)who are now in Turkey and Germany as they try to remotely cover the events in their home city.

I'm saying this  up front because walking out of the film I was kind of disappointed. I wanted a more detailed look at what it was like living in an Isis controlled city. While we get some of that mostly we are following some guys who are being hunted across Europe and who are trying to save their home remotely before it's too late.

Telling the story of the men behind RBSS the film charts the start of the Syrian civil war the flight of the Syrian forces and the coming of Isis. We watch as the group changes the city an their atrocities are cataloged by the RBSS who eventually have to flee when a price is put on their heads. We then watch as they try to continue to get word out via their connections still in the city.

This is a harrowing tale. One is left to wonder how we would deal with the emotional toll of being hunted losing friends and family. We truly come to understand the cost of the fight in the last shot of the film where one of the reporters drifts off to sleep, his body spasming with PTSD from the tension. This truly is life during war time- though in a way worse because for these guys there is no visible danger.

While I complained at the top about it not being as advertised I think the film works best because of it.  In a way there are almost too many Syrian war docs out there and the fact that the film takes a road untraveled works in its favor.

This is a very good doc on an important subject. Recommended.

SIDE A SIDE B (2017) New York Indian Film Festival 2017

Sudhish Kamath's SIDE A SIDE B is something special. A kind of mix tape romance it's a film that shouldn't work as well as it does but instead it pulls it all together to be something deeply affecting. While I'm weirdly surprised that the film works as well as it does I really shouldn't be since Kamath's film X did the impossible and took a film with 11 directors and made it work as if it were one film with one vision.

SIDE A SIDE B is the story of Aiban "Joel" Gogoi and his girlfriend Shivranjani Singh. They are traveling 44 hours by train so that she can take a new job in a big city. Coming from a small town she has never been out on her own and wants to see if she can make it on her own. He fears she will leave and never return. She insists that the time apart will be good since they have been together for years despite being only 21.

The film unfolds as a series of moments from the trip. Each moment is recorded in a long take with multiple angles covered via a natural looking split screen. Each involves a song(s) that the couple sing to each other. The songs reflect some portion of their relationship. We are there as false fronts are put up, true feelings are revealed and the future is discovered in bursts that at times come perilously close to eavesdropping.

I am at a loss for words. This is one of those rare films where I don't want to attempt to review it, I simply want to press a copy into everyone's hand and say see this it is something special. This is a really wonderful film that gets it right pretty much everywhere along the way.

The biggest plus for the film is the music. The songs are absolutely lovely and perfectly capture the moment in the story or some feeling one of the pair is trying to convey but cannot express in unsung words. My first thought half way through the first song was that I would love a copy of the score because I love it so much. (Actually the film could be released as a CD since the film's run time is less than the amount of music of a fully packed CD.)

What makes this special is that the songs are organic to the situation, the songs are performed as they would be if these were real people passing time. They start and stop, lyrics are changed and they talk over each other as they sing. We are with them as they muck about with their music.

Because we are with the two lovers in the train compartment during their trip we really get to know them. Credit director Sudhish Kamath for never really leaving their side since the fact that we see them  as their emotions rise and fall and frequently change on a dime the two become much more than mere movie characters- we get a better sense of them as human beings beyond what we might have had the film chosen to move them about in a bunch of artificially set sequences. Occasionally we do leave the train when we see flashes of their time before or the couple of moments when the tale flashes forward a year to reveal what happened.

I like that Kamath has set some flash backs as quasi-music videos that play  next to or in place of sequences in the train. While the sequences are not always realistic they do counterpoint everything as a kind of memory. (An please-if you can you'll want to see this on the big screen since the use of multiple images will be more impressive than on a TV)

Actors Shivranjani Singh and Rahul Rajkhowa give towering performances. While on some level we know they are not a real couple, they manage to make their character's emotional center more real than most people I know. What transpires between them, the ups and downs is note perfect at least as far as I have experienced. The pair are so good I found myself talking to the screen to say how much the film was on target..

To be honest writing this film up after a single go through is rather difficult. I don't mean that in a bad way, rather simply to point out that Kamath has structured this so deliberately as a film, as a music video and as a mix tape that lovers used to give each other that I simply didn't catch it all. There is a glorious complexity here that makes this way more than your typical romantic drama. The more I think about the film the bigger it grows in my memory. This is an amazing film that seems very simple but the more you look at it you discover hidden details and layers not there on the first time through.I need to actually see this film a couple dozen more times to really be able to really write about it. This film is a masterpiece and needs major consideration and not something that is tossed off to make a deadline.

You must see this film.(And for those of you in the US who don't like subtitles 99% of the film is in English). SIDE A SIDE B is great film and its wonderful construction, glorious songs and masterful performances  mark Sudhish Kamath as a filmmaker who needs to be doing more. He is making films that confound and delight and do things that amaze

And stay past the end credits because there is a wonderful jam afterward

SIDE A SIDE B World Premieres Monda night at the New York Indian Film Festival. For tickets and more information go here

Ariela sings about Rock and Roll (2017) Tribeca 2017

Wow. That is what I said when Rock’n’Roll ended.

Rock’n’Roll stars Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard who are a couple in real life. They play themselves in the film. Canet is on the set of a film in which he plays a father. His co-star, is a young attractive girl who plays his daughter. She mentions that hes not "rock ‘n’ roll", that she and her friends don't fantasize about him, that he's not cool. When he hear this, his ego is bruised and he soon becomes obsessed with wanting to be younger. He wants to be cool, he wants to be "rock n roll", he doesn't want to play fathers in movies, he wants young actor roles. He goes through a mid-life crisis of sorts..he starts dressing younger (leather jacket, tight jeans, wallet chain) and going out to clubs, getting drunk and doing drugs. He really wants to fit in and be the cool guy. This doesn't go over well. Some of the parts were hilarious, but others I wasn't sure whether I should laugh or cry! You definitely feel bad for him(or at least I did).

I loved the dialogues between Canet and Cotillard. Cotillard had many hilarious lines and even her facial expressions often made the audience laugh. She's so cute and just overall great.

I don't want to ruin the film, because I definitely think it's one to see. I liked the first part more than the second. The second was almost a bit too ridiculous and over the top(especially the end). However, after talking to a friend about it, I thought maybe it wasn't all that extreme or ridiculous. I am sure many people in the spotlight feel the same way he does and do many of the things he did. I definitely think the film explores the vanity that people have in Hollywood.

This film was a combination of wacky, funny, sad, and weird.

Take Me (2017) Tribeca 2017

A Netflix release TAKE ME is going to find a long life as film you don't have to pay per head to see. This isn't to imply that the film is bad only that this will play best on TV. The problem with a film like TAKE ME is that once things are set up there is only a few ways it can go. The fact that the outcomes are limited can be helped by the comedy being rip roaring and non stop funny. Unfortunately, while entertaining TAKE ME never achieves the heights it's shooting for.

The plot of the film has Ray running a service that for a fee will kidnap you and hold you hostage. Some people want to be scared into losing weight. Others want a thrill. When Ray get a call from Alicia asking for a whole weekend adventure he's not sure he should take it. But the promise of big money makes him take the job. The trouble is once the ball starts rolling things seem to go sideways and Ray begins to wonder if he is being set up.

Odd ball black comedy is full of humor but is sparing with the laughs. This is a film you smile with not laugh at. That's not a bad thing except that the lack of full on chuckles gives us time to ponder where this is all going. That's not a wholly good thing since we are left with is this set up or not choice and little else- with the result we've written the rest of the film a third of the way in.

I didn't really laugh at all during the film but I found that when it was over I wanted to see it again, largely so I'd know if knowing where it was gong would change how I felt. My over all concern was that the thought of people paying to see this in a movie theater was kind of asking too much of an audience since the film is too small for a big screen.

That said as something to see on Netflix this film is something that is worth trying.

Tribeca ’17: The Escape (short)

Science fiction writer Robert Sheckley was never quite a household name, but he had good success with movie sales. The diverse films based on his work include The 10th Victim starring Ursula Andress, Freejack, and Disney’s Condorman. Over a decade after Sheckley’s death, Paul Franklin adds another entry to the Sheckley filmography, adapting his story “The Store of the Worlds” as the short film The Escape, which screens as part of the Shorts: Your Heart’s Desire program at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Kellan is a dodgy back-alley scientist who has a tempting offer for miserable, life-tossed souls like Lambert. For a fee, he can temporarily transport them to one of the infinite alternate realities, where they can experience the life they truly crave. In addition to the high financial cost, the process also takes ten years off a customer’s life, so Lambert will have to think about it.

We subsequently learn Lambert is a white-collar family man, with a slightly bossy wife, a teen daughter, and a young son. He is under stress both at home and his downsizing office, but his pompous boss genuinely seems to like him. However, his desire for escape will make perfect sense in light of the big climatic reveal.

Unlike the campy 10th Victim and cartoony Condorman, The Escape is actually a sentimental sf fable, more in the spirit of Twilight Zone episodes like “A Stop at Willoughby” and “Kick the Can,” but it does have the occasion for some grand spectacle down the stretch. Indeed, The Escape is likely to attract attention, because it is the directorial debut of Franklin, who supervised special effects on several Christopher Nolan films, including the Dark Knight trilogy. Fans should not be disappointed, but they might be slightly surprised by his sensitive character-driven approach.

He also assembles a pretty impressive cast for a short, including an appropriately gaunt looking Julian Sands as Lambert, who really delivers the existential angst when the time comes. Olivia Williams plays off the mopey Lambert rather nicely as his forceful but loving wife, while Art Malik (from Jewel in the Crown and dozens of other British shows) anchors it all with authority as Kellan.

Experienced genre viewers might guess the big twist, but Franklin's execution packs a powerful punch. It is quality production that just feels like it will come around again during award season, particularly since he has that Nolan connection. Regardless, it is worth seeing just as a smart science fiction film in its own right. Highly recommended, The Escape screens again today (4/26), and Saturday (4/29), during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

The Montclair Film Festival Starts Friday


The Montclair Film Festival was started by Thom Powers because he thought his home town should have a film festival of its own. You can understand that feeling since Powers has been the programmer of festivals across the globe so it’s only fitting that he bring the goodies he’s found home.

I was introduced to the festival by Mr C and Chocko who every year make the trip and wade into the cinematic goodness. I have yet to actually attend the festival, its not for lack of desire but the fact that comes close on the heels of Tribeca every year with the result that I’m too beat to make the trip. This year things are worse because the festival over laps the final weekend of Tribeca so I am truly rooted in New York.

However just because I’m personally not going to the festival that doesn’t mean I can’t make recommendations as to what you should see. Below are the films we’ve covered at Unseen that are worth your time. Some were at the recent Tribeca, some were at Mr. Powers’ DOC NYC and somewhere at other festivals. The reviews should be enough to get you started in finding something you like. However I want to add that since this is festival that Mr Powers is associated with then the choices are probably going to please you across the board. (and apologies if  for not providing links but I haven't written up many of them because they are at Tribeca)

For tickets and more information go here: http://montclairfilmfest.org/

Our Recommended Titles:

ABACUS SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL
ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM
BURDEN
CHUCK
CITY OF GHOSTS
FOR AHKEEM
NO MAN'S LAND
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
THE REAGAN SHOW
STALKER
SUPERGIRL

Hot Docs starts Thursday

Hot Docs is one of the best documentary film festivals in the world. It is a place where any and all documentary filmmakers aspire to screene their films. Its reputation is so good that when a film is said to have screened there it instantly gets most film writers attention.

This week the annual orgy of true life films begins in Thursday. While I am not going, I am still in the trenches of Tribeca, I have seen a good number of the films. So in order to help you pick something to see I’m a list of films that we've seen that you should see.(Apologies for not posting links but Tribeca reviews have yet to be written)

For tickets and more information on Hot Docs go here.

Hot Docs films to consider:
Being BatMan
Blurred Lines
Bobbi Jene
Challenge
City of Ghosts
The Departure
For Ahkeem
Gilbert
Hell On Earth
Hondros
House of Z
Joshua :Teenager VS Superpower
Last Animals
Machines
River Below
Rumble
Shadowman
Strad Style
Whitney Can I be Me

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In Pictures: Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane talk to Michael Strahan about DEAR BASKETBALL

I will have a full report soon on the talk Kobe and Glen Keane had with Michael Strahan but until then - and because I took a lot of pictures I thought I'd share some.


Tribeca Day 6 - rain and movies

Despite the LIRR I had a good day at the movies. Some of these need longer reviews- and they are coming but for now here are some capsules reviews

HOUSE OF Z
Walking out of the HOUSE OF Z half way into the film I had a chat with the PR person handling the film. What were my thoughts?  This is a great to look at film portrait of Zac Posen, hot shot designer who had a meteoric rise and and fall. It was a film that played like gangbusters to the rest of the fashion savvy audience but for me, who knows nothing about fashion enjoyed the images but I couldn't connect. There were things I simply didn't understand. It wasn't for me, On the other hand I know that if I liked fashion I'd eat this up. If you like fashion this is a must see.

I AM EVIDENCE
Must see documentary on the back log of rape kits across the country.  This is a film that will piss you off big time. The most frightening thing is that as a result of the unclogging of the back log there was the discovery of almost 1000 serial rapists hurting women across the country. I'll have a ful review coming, but before that put this on your must see list.

DEVIL'S GATE
The first of the Tribeca Midnight films that really feels like a midnight film. An FBI agent is sent to try and find a missing women and her son. The quest leads to the town of Devil's Gate and a weird boarded up house where the home owner has a weird thing in the basement. A schlocky popcorn film, this is worth a shot if you like this sort of thing- which I do. A full review is coming.

ENDLESS
Two brothers who escaped a ufo death cult revisit those they ran out on. Odd cult film is going to thrill some and piss others off. The word from friends of Unseen was not positive. Everyone had problems with the third act which makes things almost incomprehensible- and leads to a denouncement that isn't really about scares but something else. I kind of liked it, as did JB, but I know why many people don't. This film needs a full review.

ESPN SPORTS SHORTS
The one thing you can be sure of at Tribeca is the fact the ESPN films will rock. This year the selction of shorts  were made up of: The Amazing Adventures of Wally and the Worm, Bump & Spike, The Counterfeiter, Revolution in the Ring and Run Mama Run. The selections are all quite good but none really stood out. I think that's more a testament to fine programming rather than there being anything wrong with the films themselves. Definitely worth seeing

The Wedding Plan (2017) Tribeca 2017

Don’t go into The Wedding Plan thinking it is a conventional romantic comedy. Yes there is romance. Ys there is comedy. But the way the film twists and turns, and the weight of the story make the film something much more.

Michal has finally found a man she can marry. Finally she will be a al that she hopes for herself. However with less than a month to go her fiancĂ© announces he doesn’t love her and walks out of her life. Michal then does what any woman would do and keeps the hall booked and trusts that god will find her a husband in the next 22 days.

On the face of it The Wedding Plan is an engaging “romance” that is full of all sorts of great characters you’d love to hang with. It’s a film about trying to find the one who is truly the right one. On that level the film is really good and very entertaining. On the most basic level the film will entertain and cause you to audibly react, as happened to several people at the critics screening, as the film wends through the final third.

Not so obvious until you see the film is how much the film is not a simple rom com but instead is a spiritual quest to do what god wants. This is a film that is very much tied into Judaism, or at least some sects. True love isn’t necessarily the way to go, as can be seen by Michal’s use of matchmakers and waiting for god to connect her to Mr Right. This is a film that is playing as a mediation on what is a good relationship, what is a good woman and what are we supposed to do in life. The final image of the film which is not what we expect (at least if this were a Hollywood film) is coupled with a song that makes the denouncement more than a marriage but something greater.

To be completely honest I did not get a lot of the details in the film. While I have Jewish friends and relatives, their belief and culture is not as deep as those in this film. I was not exposed to Sabbath dinner songs for example so implications of what some songs truly mean was lost one me. While one of the other writers at the screening schooled several of us after the film on some of the finer details. While this didn’t change my love for the film, it deepened by understanding and made the film seem to me more a spiritual quest of one woman to find her connection to god, much like a pilgrim might use when he travels to the Holy Land or a Buddhist might find when he or she does a series of temples.

However I think that most people who see this are not going to see this as philosophical journey. Rather they are going to see it as a ‘rom com”. On the most basic level the film is a charming and funny film. There are numerous big laughs and running gags through the film that can’t help but delight. For example one of Michal’s friends is dating a convert to Judaism from Japan brought giggles every time it was mentioned. While the course of the romance at the center is bound to result in much discussion- a bunch of us stood on the street after the film and hashed out who exactly Michal should have ended up with- the film will ultimately please all audiences.

The dual nature of the film is best summed up in one of the final lines of the film. When Michal is asked the meaning of the wedding going forward now that the groom has been found she replies that it is the end of the world as they know it. It’s a funny line delivered for maximum comic effect but there are deeper implications- it truly is the end because by getting married and accepting the groom she bends to God’s will- a god she now knows exists. Its a moment where we laugh and think. Its this ability to have its cake and eat it too that makes this film one of the best films at Tribeca and highly recommended.

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P JOHNSON (2017) Tribeca 2017

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P JOHNSON is complex film. Nominally the story of Miss Johnson, her life and death, the film actually casts it's film wider and takes in the story of Johnson's compatriot Sylvia Rivera as well as the struggle for transgender rights and respect even within the LGBT community.

The story of  Miss Johnson is framed by the investigation of Victoria Cruz from the New York City Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project. Cruz knows that most crimes against transgender women go unsolved or unpunished and she would like to determine what happened to Johnson who was one of the driving forces of the Gay and Trans Rights movement. Cruz is very much aware that looking into a death 25 years after the fact is going to be difficult but she hopes that someone or some piece of information will come to light.

Based on the write up in the Tribeca press material I thought I was going to be a true crime murder mystery focusing wholly on Miss Johnson. I didn't expect a film that laid bare the history of not only the history of Gay Rights but also the history of Trans Rights. What I thought was going to be a straight forward tale became a rich layered story that is going to require several more viewings in order to truly fully process everything that the film as telling us. Quite simply there is a lot of history in this story that most people are simply not going to be aware of.

I am not certain what to say about the film other than this film demands to be seen. This is a heady and frequently moving mix  this is a film which needs to be seen about a battle that is still being fought. If you need further proof of the struggle still being fought consider that as the film was premiering at Tribeca Chay Reed was killed in Miami.

A must see

Natasha (2015)


16 year old mark is growing up in a Russian expat community in Toronto. He goes along as any teenager would. When his uncle enters an arranged marriage with a woman from Moscow she bring her 14 year old daughter Natasha with her. Mark is given the task of showing Natasha around and a bond quickly forms between them. However Natasha has secrets in her past that could destroy their relationship.

Based on a book of short stories by director David Bezmozgis NATASHA is a rambling coming of age film that perhaps is a bit too dour for it's own good. A film with lots of silences and secrets the film has the feel of an overly earnest short story brought to the big screen. While not a bad film it is awfully mannered and very much the sort of thing that wants to be about something even if it means that things don't fully connect to the  audience.

While on some level the dual English Russian language may make the film realistic there is an uncertainty in some of the performances depending upon which language they are speaking in.

The real problem with the film is that writer director Bezmozgis is focused too much on the thrust of the tale and not on the details. Yes he has the cast switching between English and Russian as people would in real life but he forgets to give anyone anything that isn't meaningful to say. Every utterance plays into the plot somehow.

Worse in moving the characters around he has wiped out all sense of details of real life. We do not see anything that anyone does that gives s a sense of these people are real people. In a short story you can talk around the lack of detail but here every set is spartan, There are no tell tale signs of a life off screen. Everyone only exists for their single moments.

I never connected. Worse I never cared.

While technically not a bad film it never engages enough to care about the characters and what happens to them. Personally I would rather read the stories the film is based on since I'm guessing it will be more alive than this film.

NATASHA opens in Theaters 4/28